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TrackChaser update

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  • Vanden Eynde Roland
    Hello colleagues, It s been a while since I last trackchased. That s not due to lack of interest, but to lack of new track opportunities. Aline and I did
    Message 1 of 331 , Apr 2, 2013
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      Hello colleagues,

      It's been a while since I last trackchased. That's not due to lack of interest, but to lack of new track opportunities. Aline and I did however spend a week in the Puglia region of Italy. Bari and Brindisi are such lovely cities full of friendly and extremely helpful people, good shopping opportunities and numerous restaurants serving the best cuisine one can find in Italy. On the way back, we even found an exquisite eating spot in Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport, which served the best mixed salad I had in years. Not surprising with a name like that. The place was owned by a producer of sparkling wines sharing its name with a well known brand of racing and sports cars: Ferrari.

      A week in wonderful Puglia is an ideal antidote to sour and dull Belgium. But Puglia has one drawback. I've seen the only two countable tracks in the region (of which none is active this year). Therefore, I had to find new tracks elsewhere and the first of my weekend tracks was situated in the Sachsen Anhalt region of Germany. Aline was still recovering from her Italian shopping spree and thus I set off on Friday in dull and cold weather. Five days before I strolled through Bari in glorious sunshine and 20° Centigrade, now it was freezing. All along the 400 miles east to Magdeburg, it stayed cold with the occasional light snow, but driving conditions were good. As this was the start of the Easter holidays, traffic was dense, but with no real traffic jams. When it was part of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany to most of you), Magdeburg was a very rundown city, but since 1989, it's been completely refurbished. After a very nice breakfast on Saturday morning, I drove the last 40 miles to the little town of Stendal. Magdeburg may be posh, its surrounding area still looks as desolate as it did when it was part of East Germany.

      The old military airfield of Stendal Borstel was part of this bleak picture. A small portion of it is used as a civilian airfield for small private planes, the rest consists of disused runways and decaying buildings. But there is hope and it involves cars and bikes. Some local residents are trying to redevelop a corner of the old airfield into a poor man's motorsport centre. Part of one runway is used for 200 m dragster races for cars and bikes and in one corner, a clever fellow has built a small dirt oval on which he organises 45 minute races for allcomers. There's no safety check, the only thing checked is that all participants wear a crash helmet and pay EUR 259 for their race day. For that amount, they can practice from 8.00 a.m. till 11.00 a.m. and race for 45 minutes at 11.30 a.m. Spectating was free of charge, but spectators were few. The nicest feature of this small oval was that it had one part on sandy soil and one on very greasy clay (more so after a minor snow shower hit the track). A field of twelve small but varied banger like cars took part and some protected their front, rear and driver side door with old tyres. The racing was fierce, but the atmosphere was extremely laidback.

      The drive back home went smoothly and after a few hours of sleep, I got on the road again for my Sunday track in the little town of Chiny (WAL), about two miles from the tracks of Moyen (another hamlet of this town) which I scored a few years ago. This time the snow stayed away but in the woods surrounding the meadow, in which a small road course was traced, there was still quite a lot of the white stuff to be found. Even though France was not far away, this meeting for the Belgian kartcross championship attracted only 14 participants (in three classes). Maybe this was partly due to some confusion. On the promoter's flyers it was stated the races were to be held on Sunday, March 31, but the regional federation (and its counterpart in the Netherlands) mentioned Monday, April 1 as the date of the meeting. Anyway, the promoter was clever enough to let all crosskarts race together. He started his meeting with three non scoring races, before having the three 20 minute ones counting for the Belgian championship.

      Even though it was freezing and I didn't see many cars in action, both promoters did their best to have a compact and well organised grassroots meeting. One can't ask for much more.



      Roland


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    • Vanden Eynde Roland
      Hello colleagues, Long before I found out trackchasing ever existed, I had a habit of going to some late season races on southern French road courses. I ve
      Message 331 of 331 , Nov 12, 2013
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        Hello colleagues,

        Long before I found out trackchasing ever existed, I had a habit of going to some late season races on southern French road courses. I've long since exhausted those new track opportunities, but still there are a few French road courses I have to visit. Last weekend I added a rather remarkable one to my portfolio.

        Why drive an entire day if a high speed train brings you there in half that time? Since I discovered the multitude of possibilities of the French high speed trains, I like to take advantage of their services whenever suitable. Unlike my two previous train travels, this time, I couldn't get round Paris, but still that wasn't such a problem. I boarded a train to Paris Nord just past 11.15 a.m. and 75 minutes later it got me to Paris. In the north station of Paris, I had 85 minutes to get to Paris Bercy station by underground. It only took me 25 minutes to do so and I had ample time to take my numbered seat on the train to Clermont-Ferrand. Another 90 minutes later I got there. I had booked a hotel (Hotel des Commerçants) only yards from the railway station. The weather was a little cold, but sunny and after a long walk I had enough of an appetite to go for an early steak dinner at a Hippopotamus. These are chain restaurants a bit reminiscent of Applebee's.

        On Saturday morning I got back to the railway station to fetch my hire car at Sixt. They gave an excellent rate and handed me a Renault Twingo with only 75 miles on the clock. Unlike in Montréal, I didn't add thousands of miles to it, as my target for the day was less than 35 miles from the town centre. The French tyre manufacturer Michelin has its roots in Clermont-Ferrand and the centrepiece of those roots is its research centre at Ladoux (Auvergne region). This complex, officially called "Centre de recherche Michelin de Ladoux", is a beauty. It's in lush green surroundings. Inside a 5 mile high speed trioval, it harbours several testing grounds for dry weather tyre testing, wet weather tyre testing, braking, etc. The dry weather testing is done on a 2770 metres long flat track with numerous corners. It is on this track that twice a year countable races are held. Last Saturday, two Porsche clubs (one local and one Swiss) held a sprint and endurance meeting. This being a tyre test track, it has neither pit lane nor specific paddock area. I had to park my hire car on a piece of concrete where trailers and cars of team members were parked. Another part of that concrete area was turned into an improvised pit lane. In the morning, they held three 20 minute sprint races for various Porsche classes, while after a two hour lunch break (although there was only a local hot dog stand to get food from), allcomers got on the track for a two hour endurance race. The twisty nature of the track made for good racing, but the track surface was rather slick and there were spins galore. But as this track was surrounded by large grassy runoff areas, no cars were severely damaged. Not being a great fan of Porsches (I like Ferraris and Maseratis better), I left halfway the endurance race and had a nice drive in the hills surrounding Clermont-Ferrand. The entire landscape consists of extinct volcanoes and it's really gorgeous. I got back into town at dusk, handed the car back in and after another nice dinner, I had a good night sleep.

        Sunday morning, I got on the train back to Paris. Just like on Friday, the journey went by smoothly. So much for my contribution to tracks in November, as the rest of the month will not involve any new trackchasing for me.

        Roland

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        Visit our website! http://www.nbb.be

        "DISCLAIMER: The content of this e-mail message should not be
        construed as binding on the part of the National Bank of Belgium
        (NBB) unless otherwise and previously stated. The opinions
        expressed in this message are solely those of the author and do not
        necessarily reflect NBB viewpoints, particularly when the content
        of this message, or part thereof, is private by nature or does not
        fall within the professional scope of its author."
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